In 1991 Mercedes-Benz introduced as a 1992 model the replacement to the venerable 126 version of the S Class. Yes...agreed by then the 126 was iconic. The replacement was the 140 version, it was bigger, supremely sophisticated, more expensive, and launched during challenging economic times in North America. Accompanied by a challenging world with incidences of belligerence in the same areas as today (some things never change).
The 140 embodied the latest Teutonic thinking in what a luxury sedan should be, with increased features, accompanied by emerging electronics, telematics and a new 12 cylinder version a first. The economic landscape is dire, the customers are concerned, and here is an over the top 12 cylinder Benz.
In addition to having upstart Japanese luxury cars emerging on the market for tens of thousands less. While making claims of extreme reliability, and supreme customer service. The Japanese at the time had the Germans in their sights.
The 600 SEL (12 cylinder) was a serious amount of money, and to uphold the Teutonic tradition, its complex, and even more complex, as an example most of the engine controls were doubled (as if it was 2x6 cylinders). As is usually the case the diagnostic computers not available yet. You can quickly imagine the challenges in dealing with "electronic issues" of the early 140's compared to a 126. Think of this, what was complex back then, is perfectly normal, and available of most cars today.
The 6 cylinder version of the 140 had a 5 speed automatic (you needed an extra gear just to get the mass rolling), the top of the line V8 (500 SEL) was reasonably quick as expected. Yes...the imagination would wonder what a 12 cylinder would do?
At some point the opportunity presents itself to experience a 600 SEL, which is the same size as a 500 SEL, its big, its heavy, its cumbersome for city driving, and parking lot navigating. Although there is defenite cool, accompanied by a serious FYF. On the highway which is the ideal medium, if a 500 had power, if a 6.9 was impressive. A quick aside, a 12 cylinders delivers power in a smoother, more fluid, elegant fashion than an 8 cylinder.
Yes...20 years ago throttling up a 600 SEL was an experience like no other, the speedometer needle would simply ramp up, and keep on ramping up, and keep on ramping up some more. If you want a sedan with sophisticated waftability you get a 12 cylinder.
The folks that had an opportunity to experience a 600 SEL on a German autobahn were spellbound, by the performance and composure of the car.
You could chip (back in the day you had to replace the chips) the ECU's of the 600 SEL which generated an appreciable horsepower increase, for a level of power that could/would crush most other sedans. These cars would start in 2nd gear (a long standing tradition), a tweaked 12 cylinder purposely starting in 1st gear was a serious muscle car.
What happened to used 600 SEL's...same history, the second owner does not have the resources of the first, and so on...
Why a 12 cylinder?
You surely don't need one.....but as serious gearheads have mentioned through the years, at some point one needs to own and experience a 12 cylinder sedan.